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Strategic HRM at Quantum Case Study

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2019

Summary of the Case

Quantum Corporation manufactures and markets computer hard disk devices throughout the world. The company has managed to maintain profitability since its formation in 1980. It has achieved this mainly through its differentiation strategy that focuses on high quality.

The HR strategy at Quantum is one of its strongest areas, with the critical dimensions being quality, time-to-volume, as well as being easy to collaborate with in terms of business.

The HR singles out increase in the company’s value, increase in market share, and building an extraordinary work environment as Quantum’s operational goals. Important behaviours have been identified to enable employees achieve the corporate target of maintaining a competitive edge over the rival firms in the industry.

Emphasis has been placed in teamwork efforts instead of individual performance in order to ensure targets are achieved speedily. The computer peripherals industry is characterised by short product life cycles owing to the fast-paced nature of the overall information technology industry.

Performance of teams is managed in five main stages that include planning, coaching, performance review, as well as developing and rewarding the employees.

The integration of IT capabilities in the firm’s HR function has seen the successful establishment of a human resource information system (HRIS). This, in turn, has enhanced automation of staffing and other performance management tools, thereby improving on quality performance.

Quantum, however, faces numerous challenges in its business performance. The company has turned global by establishing operations in other parts of the world other than its main offices in Silicon Valley.

Thus, it has been forced to replicate all its operation systems and practices in these multiple locations in order to sustain its growth and development. There is also scarcity of quality talent in this area of expertise, which tends to slow down the growth process of Quantum.

With the firm having acquired another firm, Digital Equipment, Quantum has grappled with the problem of an enlarged workforce, as well as challenges in integrating the firm’s operations into one.

Other areas that have proved to be of a challenge to the firm include acquiring and retaining quality talent, expanding the competence to cover change management, as well as developing employees to achieve continuity in performance and general operations.

Problems Facing the Company

Managing explosive growth at the global platform

Like many other companies seeking to expand their markets and tap on other advantages for growth, Quantum has adopted a global business framework that has seen the firm establish operations in other parts of the world other than its operations in the USA.

However, the new business model poses challenges to the firm in the sense that its operations are no longer of a small-scale that can easily be managed. As competition persists within the industry, an expanded business could easily fail to achieve some of the growth targets that are associated with leanness and quality (Barber, Huselid & Becker, 1999).

Achieving the appropriate structure to accommodate the new model, especially for the HR function, stands out as a challenge to Quantum. In addition, there are other challenges that will most obviously result from the global company, including staffing and developing of new employees from different countries. Maintaining the cultural base of the firm will definitely turn out to be a bigger challenge for the management of the firm.

Employee development

The computer peripherals industry, and indeed the entire IT industry are facing a challenge of scarcity of employees. Thus, Quantum is facing a challenge of developing its workforce in order to enable individual workers maintain their value addition to the firm. Workers will only stay at the firm for longer and, thus, sustain continuity if they feel valued in their contributions.

However, for this to be achieved the firm needs to train the workers such that they can do meaningful work under an enabling environment (Barber, Huselid & Becker, 1999). Managers may not be at hand to fully provide this support, particularly owing to the fast-paced growth that Quantum is undergoing in its business.

In other words, achieving the rightful balance of developing workers at the appropriate rate is proving to be too difficult for the firm. This might see workers only stay for a short stint at the firm before moving to other employers or career fields, which is a very costly practice in the end.

Managing new acquisitions and joint ventures

Growth in business often involves acquiring other business ventures or entering into joint operations. However, this may not be an easy engagement for Quantum because of its short cycles in product development. Equally, Quantum puts more emphasis in team development, which eventually makes it difficult to implement joint ventures with success.

Specific issues related to joint operations and acquisitions that pose a challenge to Quantum include how to achieve improvement in “soft asset due diligence” quality before entering into such arrangements. In addition, Quantum is also concerned with the aspect of integration after entering into such joint ventures or making new acquisitions.

Formalizing relations as well as procedures could be tough in instances where the capabilities of the partner are not evaluated accurately. There needs to be structures in place, which should provide for knowledge transfer between Quantum and its partner and provide for means through which the acquired firm can be anchored easily by Quantum.

Such a structure, however, is not easy to develop prior to such acquisitions or mergers. This is because different companies have their own unique model, which may require time to study before eventually designing the structure of association (Barber, Huselid & Becker, 1999).

Acquiring and retaining talent

Companies in the IT industry must continuously gain access to talent and have a high employee retention capability to be able to achieve a critical success factor. However, this is not the case at the Silicon Valley, where there is considerably low unemployment.

Other parts of the world also suffer from an acute shortage of talent in this area of expertise. The high qualification thresholds by Quantum further make it difficult for the firm to identify the right employees for its operations.

As a remedy, Quantum has resorted to identifying key employee capabilities (Barber, Huselid & Becker, 1999). Part of this strategy involves developing its HR systems as a way of closing the gap.

This venture requires huge amount of financial resources, as well as adequate bench strength in order to enable the teams attain their mission. The company, however, suffers from inadequacies on both fronts, and this could not be achieved any time soon.

Expanding competence to cover change management processes

Quantum’s strategy has continuously been involving the idea of adopting change as a way of enabling the firm to achieve its objectives. Part of this strategy involves constantly ensuring that the firm maintains a workforce with appropriate flexibility and skills.

Given that change management has to involve the idea of expanded competence to make it a reality, Quantum’s challenge in achieving this lies in the fact that the company operates in an industry with thin margins.

In essence, the resources by the firm are not adequate to sustain a long-wave employee development (Barber, Huselid & Becker, 1999). Unless the firm builds its HR competencies for purposes of managing large-scale change processes, the dream of achieving this objective at Quantum will remain farfetched.

Appropriate Concepts Relevant to this Case

Group behaviour and dynamics

One notable HR policy at Quantum involves its overreliance on groups and teamwork. While teams can be effective in enhancing an organisation to achieve its objectives, the management must handle numerous issues that relate to teamwork and groups to expedite performance (Armstrong, 2011). The best groups at Quantum are determined by their achievements in relation to the goal or target of the firm.

To achieve high efficiency in the groups and teamwork, the management at the firm must ensure that workers understand the expectation that the firm has over them. It is important that the management help the individual employees to realign their goals to work in tandem with those of their groups.

The decision-making procedure should be aligned with the particular situation at hand. This implies that the management must be flexible in ensuring that different methods are applied at varying times. This can only be the case if healthy norms are set up in such a way that they achieve a balance between spontaneity and structure.

Another important issue should be to inculcate high levels of trust, safety, as well as cohesion within the groups. When honesty and openness is eventually achieved in a group, it creates a perfect environment for the sharing of constructive feedback (Armstrong, 2011).

Information must be shared readily in groups. Teams work as a unit and they can only achieve their targets if individuals within the teams have the same information and awareness.

In terms of leadership, a democratic style of guidance will be the most appropriate for enhancing Quantum’s overall objectives and targets. Individual members should be provided with responsibilities within the groups for purposes of goal accomplishment, developmental change, as well as internal maintenance.

Managers at Quantum must be ready to handle disagreements and conflicts within the groups. This should not be viewed negatively, but rather as appropriate means of achieving creative and high quality decisions (Armstrong, 2011). It is also the perfect alternative for solving problem situations in the firm.

This approach will help in achieving the target because Quantum operates in an industry where quality is paramount. What the managers should be aware of is the fact that they need to work through the conflicts rather than ignore them.

The challenge of conflicts of interests is also likely to crop up within the teams, which could deter goal achievement. In such instances, the management should promote negotiation and mediation in order to reach agreements that optimise outcomes, while ensuring that the members are fully satisfied (Armstrong, 2011).

Communication is also important and should be in all directions as a way of emphasising expression of feelings in an open and accurate manner.

Power and control distribution within the teams should be in an equitable manner (Armstrong, 2011). Contribution should be encouraged from all members because eventually power of the individuals will result from their abilities and how well informed they are.

The management should ensure consistent observable growth, as well as change amongst all the members is achieved. This should not only centre on the groups, but rather it should be expanded to include their day-to-day lives.

Lessons Learnt from this Case

Organisations must explore on their strong areas to ensure that they achieve and sustain competitive advantage. It is important that the organisations build on their critical success factor as a way of achieving their growth.

One area through which competitive advantages can be achieved in organisations is the human resource. Workers run the operations in the organisation, which eventually links it with the market. The level at which workers add value to the organisation will reflect on the performance of the organisation in the market.

High performance can be achieved through organising workers into teams or groups. This enables the individual employees to share their values, while also enhancing learning within the groups. Teams must be managed well to enable the organisation benefit from their existence.

In the contemporary world, critical skills and talent in some areas are lacking and organisations must strategically plan on how they can rely on their internal workers to achieve their objectives. With the fast globalisation currently taking place, companies must restructure themselves such that they do not appear to be rigid in their frameworks; instead, they should remain flexible always.

With a flexible structure, companies can easily manage mergers and acquisitions and easily address the challenge of talent shortage. While developing talent for organisations is important, it is upon the organisations to ensure the workers feel valued in their careers and overall contribution to the organisation.

References

Armstrong, M. (2011). Armstrong’s handbook of strategic human resource management, 5th edition. London: Michael Armstrong

Barber, D., Huselid, M. A., & Becker, B. E. (1999). Strategic human resource management at Quantum. Human Resource Management, 38(4), 321-328

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